Mountain Is The Most Original Game Released This Year - And It Isn't Even A Game
"Welcome to Mountain," reads the on-screen text. "You are Mountain. You are God."
That's how the game Mountain begins - if it can really even be called a game. All it really involves is a large mountain, floating in the void of space. Sometimes the weather changes, and sometimes a random human artifact crashes into the side. Sometimes, it also talks - and what it has to say very occasionally ventures into "existential crisis" territory.
Maybe you are the Mountain, or maybe you're just some passive observer. Maybe the Mountain doesn't really exist at all - maybe it's totally allegorical. No one can say for certain; it's never really explained.
You'd be forgiven for thinking it doesn't sound like much other than a screensaver. To be honest, that's almost what it is. The Atlantic claimed it invites gamers to "experience the chasm between your own subjectivity and the unfathomable experience of something else." The Los Angeles Times referred to it as hypnotic; The Verge claimed it was "the only experience that has ever made me feel sad about a geological phenomenon."
But is it really as profound a title as they seem to think it is? Is it really such a brilliant triumph of game development? The average user doesn't really seem to share their sentiments. I cannot repeat in polite company what some of the Steam user reviews said about this title. Let's just say they weren't very nice words, and leave it at that.
There's actually a very good reason the game's so divisive - it's the fact that we've never really seen anything like it. It's right up there with Goat Simulator in that it's a game that sort of defies convention. That's why it's got critics so excited, and that's why consumers can't seem to make heads nor tails of it - it completely overturns their expectations about what a game should be.
I think PC Gamer has the right of it. Games journalism is in a rut. A terrible, bothersome, boring,nearly existential rut. Reviews feel more like press releases, and world-weary reviewers abuse the life out of words like "visceral," "solid," and "deep." In short, there's this sort of crushing ennui that's descended over many reviewers, if only because every game they're reviewing is so similar to every other one.
In essence, they love Mountain because it's so different from the current crop of AAA games. It's something wholly unique, and thus incredibly difficult to pin down and describe, It's a new experience - and a welcome one - that effectively brings the entire genre to question its identity. It gives reviewers something new to talk about; it represents a way for them to stretch their creative muscles and actually write something again.
I'd say that, more than anything, is what defines Mountain. It's a game that revels in its oddity, and spits in the face of what a game is "supposed to" be. I strongly believe that, as the genre continues to grow, we're going to encounter other, similarly-styled (and similarly controversial) games. After all, gaming as an art form is still trying to find its legs - and titles like Mountain are an offshoot of those attempts.
If you want to check out Mountain for yourself, it's selling for $0.99 on Steam. Give it a watch...or play...or...whatever. It's actually pretty relaxing.